Antoinette Nic Gearailt, president of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS), said the length and associated costs of training turn young people off teaching careers.
While most primary teachers do a four-year degree immediately after Leaving Certificate, most second-level teachers obtain a two-year postgraduate qualification after doing a primary three-year or four-year degree.
“At a time of almost full employment, with high-spec jobs available after a four-year degree programme in many disciplines, the length of teacher training with its associated costs is a disincentive,” Ms Nic Gearailt told Education Minister Richard Bruton at the ACCS annual conference.
The postgrad degree for second-level teaching was extended from one to two years in 2012 following reviews of pre-service training.
Ms Nic Gearailt said routes into second-level teaching need to be expanded, and suggested a wider range of concurrent degree programmes would help. These primary degrees that qualify graduates to teach in second-level schools are only available for around a dozen subjects, mostly those with a practical element.
The ACCS president spoke about ongoing difficulties facing schools trying to hire substitute teachers in certain subjects to cover unexpected sick leave or approved teacher absences.
She proposed allowing second-year postgraduate students to be contracted for regular part-time hours and said that more attractive terms, conditions and career prospects might encourage some of the thousands of Irish graduates abroad to return.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland said this week’s reported 4% increase in students listing a second-level teaching degree as their first choice course was welcome but follows a collapse due to cuts to new entrants’ pay.